Population Research and Policy Review

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 603–614 | Cite as

Research Note: US Census Same-Sex Couple Data: Adjustments to Reduce Measurement Error and Empirical Implications

  • Rebecca DiBennardoEmail author
  • Gary J. Gates


US Census same-sex couple data represent one of the richest and most frequently used data resources for studying the LGBT population. Recently, the Census Bureau conducted an analysis of a serious measurement problem in these data, finding that as many as 40 % of same-sex couples tabulated in Census 2000 and 28 % of those tabulated in Census 2010 were likely misclassified different-sex couples (O’Connell and Feliz, Bureau of the Census, 2011). As a result, the Census Bureau released new state-level “preferred” estimates for the number of same-sex couples in these years, as well as previously unavailable information regarding the error rate of sex misclassification among different-sex married and unmarried couples by state and year. Researchers can use this information to adjust same-sex couple tabulations for geographic areas below the state level. Using these resources, this study: (1) considers in greater detail how the properties of the same-sex couple error might affect statistical inference, (2) offers a method for developing sub-state estimates of same-sex couples, and (3) demonstrates how using adjusted estimates can improve inference in analyses that rely on understanding the distribution of same-sex couples. In order to accomplish the third task, we replicate an analysis by McVeigh and Diaz (American Sociological Review 74: 891–915, 2009) that used county level Census 2000 unadjusted same-sex couple data, substitute our adjusted same-sex couple estimate, and examine the way in which this substitution affects findings. Our results demonstrate the improved accuracy of the adjusted measure and provide the formula that researchers can use to adjust the same-sex couple distribution in future analyses.


Demography Measurement Sexuality Quantitative methods Methodology 



We would like to thank Rory McVeigh and Maria-Elena D. Diaz for generously sharing their data for this analysis.


  1. Allison, P. D. (2009). Fixed effects regression models. Los Angeles: SAGE.Google Scholar
  2. Baumle, A. K., & Compton, D. L. R. (2011). Legislating the family: The effect of state family laws on the presence of children in same-sex households. Law and Policy, 33(1), 82–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Black, D., Gates, G., Sanders, S., & Taylor, L. (2000). Demographics of the gay and lesbian population in the United States: Evidence from available systematic data sources. Demography, 37(2), 139–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Black, D., Gates, G., Sanders, S., & Taylor, L. (2002). Why do gay men live in San Francisco? Journal of Urban Economics, 51(1), 54–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Black, D., Gates, G., Sanders, S., & Taylor, L. (2007). The measurement of same-sex unmarried partner couples in the 2000 US census.Google Scholar
  6. Black, D. A., Sanders, S. G., & Taylor, L. J. (2007b). The economics of lesbian and gay families. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 21(2), 53–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carpenter, C., & Gates, G. J. (2008). Gay and lesbian partnership: Evidence from California. Demography, 45(3), 573–590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Gates, G. J., & Cooke, A. M. (2011). United States census snapshot: 2010. Los Angeles, CA: The Williams Institute.Google Scholar
  9. Gates, G. J., & Ost, J. (2004). Gay and lesbian atlas. Washington, DC: Urban Institute Press.Google Scholar
  10. Gates, G. J., & Steinberger, M. (2009). Same-sex unmarried partner couples in the American Community Survey: The role of misreporting, miscoding and misallocation. In Annual Meetings of the Population Association of America, Detroit, MI.Google Scholar
  11. Hoeting, J. A., Madigan, D., Raftery, A. E., & Volinsky, C. T. (1999). Bayesian model averaging: A tutorial. Statistical Science, 14, 382–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Institute of Medicine. (2011). The health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people: Building a foundation for better understanding. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  13. Jepsen, L. K., & Jepsen, C. A. (2002). An empirical analysis of the matching patterns of same-sex and opposite-sex couples. Demography, 39(3), 435–453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Jepsen, C. A., & Jepsen, L. K. (2006). The sexual division of labor within households: Comparisons of couples to roommates. Eastern Economic Journal, 32(2), 299–312.Google Scholar
  15. Klawitter, M. (2011). Multilevel analysis of the effects of antidiscrimination policies on earnings by sexual orientation. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 30(2), 334–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Klawitter, M. M., & Flatt, V. (1998). The effects of state and local antidiscrimination policies on earnings for gays and lesbians. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 17(4), 658–686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Lofquist, D., Lugaila, T., O’Connell, M., & Feliz, S. (2012). Households and families: 2010. US Census Briefs. US Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, US Census Bureau.Google Scholar
  18. McVeigh, R., & Diaz, M.-E. D. (2009). Voting to ban same-sex marriage: Interests, values, and communities. American Sociological Review, 74(6), 891–915.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. O’Connell, M., & Feliz, S. (2011). Same-sex couple household statistics from the 2010 census. Bureau of the Census, Sept 27.Google Scholar
  20. Raftery, A. E. (1995). Bayesian model selection in social research. Sociological Methodology, 25, 111–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Rosenfeld, M. J. (2010). Nontraditional families and childhood progress through school. Demography, 47(3), 755–775.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Rosenfeld, M. J., & Kim, B. S. (2005). The independence of young adults and the rise of interracial and same-sex unions. American Sociological Review, 70(4), 541–562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Schwartz, C. R., & Graf, N. L. (2009). Assortative matching among same-sex and different-sex couples in the United States, 1990–2000. Demographic Research, 21, 843.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Treiman, D. J. (2009). Quantitative data analysis: Doing social research to test ideas (Vol. 27). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.The Williams InstituteUniversity of California, Los Angeles School of LawLos AngelesUSA

Personalised recommendations